August 31, 2006

Chicken with Watercress Sauce

I grew up in the lovely city of Birmingham, AL where Frank Stitt was—and still is—the star chef. In fact, this Alabamian won a James Beard Award for the "Best Chef in the Southeast." His best-known restaurant is Highlands Bar and Grill, which serves French food with a southern influence by utilizing ingredients that are indigenous to the area. While growing up, it was such a treat to go here with my family. Today, the first thing my mom does when she learns that I am coming home for a visit is make a reservation at Highlands!

A couple years ago, Frank Stitt blessed us with his first cookbook, Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill. While home for Christmas and dining at his restaurant, my momma bought me his book (signed by him and my favorite waiter, who has been working at Highlands since I was a little girl). Not only are the recipes fabulous, but the cookbook is also a joy to read as it includes a lot about where Frank Stitt acquires his inspiration and finds his ingredients.

A couple weekends ago I had a “me weekend.” Amidst many weekends filled with friends’ weddings, bachelorette parties, and showers; I finally had a weekend to myself. So I took advantage of this time and treated myself to a lovely meal designed by Mr. Stitt. I had a difficult time narrowing down which dish I wanted to make, but ultimately decided upon the Chicken with Watercress Sauce recipe.

I really enjoyed this dish and will certainly make it again. I usually find chicken to be a bit boring, but this was quite tasty and the sauce went very well with it. Making the dish was a little overwhelming at one point as I was trying to organize it all in my head, but afterwards I realized that it is actually not so hard—I am just not used to having to follow someone else’s orders for a recipe! Now that I have made it, from hereon it should be much easier. I do recommend that you have all ingredients prepared before starting the dish.

So here is the recipe (for 4 servings):
  • 1 large Bunch watercress, tough stems removed, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, and cooled in ice water
  • 1 ½ cups Homemade chicken broth or canned low-sodium broth, boiled to reduce to 1 cup
  • 3 tbsp Unsalted butter
  • 4 Large frenched chicken breasts (See Note 1)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 8 Large asparagus spears, trimmed, blanched in boiling salted water until just tender, and cooled in ice water
  • 8 Small radishes, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Medium spring onions, quartered and glazed (or sautéed) (See Note 2)
  • ½ cup White wine (See Note 3)
  • 2 tbsp Heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Squeeze watercress lightly to remove excess water. Place it in a blender and puree until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes (you may need to add a little of the reduced chicken broth to facilitate pureeing.) Set aside.
  3. Heat a large heavy ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Season the chicken with salt and white pepper, add skin side down to the pan, and cook until golden on the first side, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (See Note 4)
  4. While the chicken is cooking, slice the asparagus into halves or thirds, depending on the size, and place in a medium saucepan, along with the radishes and spring onions. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, season with salt and white pepper, and warm gently; keep warm over very low heat.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a rack set over a platter. Pour out any excess fat from the pan, set over high heat, and deglaze with white wine, stirring up the brown bits. Boil until reduced by half. Add the (remaining) chicken broth and reduce by slightly over half. Add the cream and reduce slightly, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down and swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and watercress puree. Season to taste.
  6. Spoon the sauce onto warm serving plates. Top with the chicken and arrange the asparagus, onions, and radishes around it. Serve immediately.

I ended up making a little extra sauce because, personally, I don’t think you can ever have too much sauce. I also drank a Sauvignon Blanc with this dish, which I think went really well with it (but I am also biased because “Sauvignon” is one of my favorite words to say—“Szechwan” is another favorite).


  1. Frenched chicken breasts are meatier than your normal chicken breasts and have the skin remaining on. They also maintain a little bone on the end, which is really just there for aesthetic purposes from what I can see. Your butcher will know what a “Frenched chicken breast” is and will properly prepare it for you. Frank Stitt notes that a regular chicken breast can also work, but you will need to use less time for cooking it. Personally, though, go with the Frenched style—it looks so much cooler!
  2. He says spring onions here, which normally mean scallions. However, this seemed a bit odd to me because how does one quarter a scallion? And won’t they just get soggy in the sauce? And where are they in his prepared dish picture (trust me, they were not there)? Thinking that this is either a mistake or he is not referring to scallions after all, I used a Vidalia onion. The sweetness of this onion worked well with the dish.
  3. Remember when cooking with wine to always use a wine that you would drink! This is because the flavor will concentrate when cooked.
  4. Okay, so he says that the chicken will cook about 11 minutes. My chicken? It took about 45 minutes! Perhaps my breasts were too big? (I have always wanted to be able to say that.)


August 17, 2006

Turbot Fillet with Creamed Okra and Corn

A few weeks ago I made this fish dish, which was really yummy and made me feel like I was back at home in Alabama (okra is a very popular vegetable in the South). With a nice glass of white wine, it was the perfect treat. I especially love the tarragon with this as it adds a nice bite to the creaminess of the veggie mixture. As with most my dishes, this was also simple to make.

Although I made this dish with turbot, you can certainly use other types of fish too. Really any white fish, such as tilapia or flounder, should work.

So here is how I made it (per 1 serving):

  • 1 Turbot fish fillet
  • 2 tbsp Flour
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  1. Lightly flour the fish fillet, shaking off any excess flour.
  2. Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Place fish in skillet. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the fillet, but generally you will want to cook the fillet for a few minutes on each side. When done, the fillet should feel stiff with a slight give.
Creamed Okra and Corn
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Shallot, chopped
  • 1/5 lb Okra, chopped in 1 centimeter pieces
  • Corn cut off of 1 cob
  • 1 tbsp Tarragon, chopped
  • 3 - 5 tbsp Crème fraiche (depending on how creamy you want it)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. As the fish is cooking, place a separate small skillet over medium to medium-low heat and add the olive oil and chopped shallot. Sauté until the shallot softens. (Use a larger skillet if making more than one serving.)
  2. Add the okra and cook until the okra is almost cooked through. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add corn and cook for about 2 minutes—enough time to warm up the corn while keeping it crunchy.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and add tarragon and crème fraiche. Mix until the crème fraiche liquefies, creating a nice creamy sauce.
  5. Place the fish fillet on a plate and top with the creamed okra and corn mixture.

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August 13, 2006

A Spanish Wedding

My last post about Spain…so sad, but at least it is a good one!

The purpose of my trip to Barcelona was to attend my close friends’, Matt and Raquel, wedding (Matt actually spells his name with one "t", but I think that looks funny so I stick with two). Matt and Raquel live in London, but Raquel’s dad’s side of the family is from Spain (her mom’s side of the family is from Scotland—where she grew-up).

The wedding took place about 30 miles up the coast from Barcelona at a villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As you can imagine, attending this affair was such a treat. Aside from the fact that it was the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended (except, of course, if I attended your wedding then this was the second most beautiful wedding I have gone to!), the food was absolutely wonderful. I also appreciated seeing how the cuisine is incorporated into Spanish weddings.

The ceremony took place in the late afternoon under a canopy of trees overlooking the sea. Following the ceremony, we were then lead to the patio outside the villa for cocktails and tapas. As you can imagine, the tapas was absolutely wonderful. For starters, check out this leg of meat:

How cool is this? This is Serrano ham, which is very similar to Prosciutto in that they are both dry-cured hams (basically Serrano is Spain's version of this Italian ham).

Served near the ham was tomato bread. This is a very common way of serving bread in Spain. The Spaniards take raw garlic and rub it against the bread’s surface to pull out the oils. They then follow the garlic with tomato, which they also rub into the bread. The final product is somewhat similar to brochette but with only the essence of the tomato and garlic. Quite lovely.

I also treated myself to a nice, large plate of other items:

Beginning at the top:

  • That is a slice of Manchego cheese, which is a semi-firm sheep's milk cheese made in the La Mancha region in Spain. Its taste is slightly salty and creamy.
  • To the right of that is a slice of bread with tomato and garlic, as described above.
    The next item is very fresh smoked salmon—so good!
  • The next item is a mussel salad. You may recall from my earlier Barcelona posts that this region is well-known for its seafood. This salad was one of my favorite of the tapas dishes as it was very fresh.
  • Next to the mussels are shrimp that have been broiled with seasonings. Shrimp is often common at weddings, but the seasonings used with the shrimp made these especially stand out.
  • In the center of my dish is a slice of brie cheese topped with quince jelly, which Raquel explains is commonly served with cheese in Spain. Quince is a fruit that is related to apples and pears. In its raw form it is too hard and sour to eat, but in its cooked form it can be used in jellies and preserves.
  • Above my dish is a bowl of Marcona almonds, which are unique to Spain.

Wow, now these are great cocktail dishes—and you know what? There were actually a lot more tapas dishes than these, but this was all I could fit onto my plate!

After a couple hours of enjoying the gorgeous views and the fabulous tapas and drinks, we then headed into the reception hall for dinner. Our courses and wine pairings were as follows:

Warm bite of shrimps and prawns with caramelized onion and black olive paste
White Wine Penedes Vina Sol de Torres

Beef loin in its own juice with Mascarpone cheese and pine nuts ball garnish
Red Wine Rioja Marques de Caceres Crianza

Apple with lemon sorbet
Cava Brut Reserva Oro de Cavas Hill

Wedding cake
Cava Brut Reserva Oro de Cavas Hill

Petit fours (served with coffee, a selection of liqueurs, and—I kid you not—cigarette packs)

Between each course, the Spaniards (followed by non-Spaniards) would take their napkins and swing them above their heads to welcome the next dish. How exciting is it to be around people who celebrate food so much?!

When it was time for the wedding cake to be brought out, the lights were turned off and the music went crazy. The cake was then wheeled out covered with firecracker sparklers. It was quite the scene and totally different from how we present the cake in the States!

Matt and Raquel—thank you for letting me post about the food at your beautiful wedding! I do not usually like to post about meals that I am being treated to for I do not want the hosts to feel self conscience about my presence. However, it is rare that I have the opportunity to attend a foreign wedding and I wanted to share my experience.

So I hope you enjoyed my Spanish series of posts! I had a fabulous time in Barcelona, and definitely recommend it as a destination.

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